Building (Together in) the Future

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Part 2: Radical Common Sense

Here at ncx+ we are enjoying along with our much-appreciated industry partners a post-BIM journey towards Making Buildings not through an archaic transactional (200-year-old) model of Design & Construction but via a completely fresher relational paradigm, a collegium of sorts.  Making Buildings is not about incremental innovations to already exhausted procurement models.  This would include the current “soup de jour” Incentivized Project Delivery (IPD) hailed as a panacea for all our design and construction woes.  Rather Making Buildings is simply a 100% radically innovative and fundamentally common-sense approach without the waste and all that having a roughly equal in authority, fully integrated, high performance team can offer.

Importantly, as buildings produce 75% of annual global GHG emissions we cannot come close to the 2030 Challenge using outdated procurement models designed for an era when we were not facing the potentially catastrophic outcomes of global warming looming on the horizon. The antiquated transactional project delivery models are not easily adaptable and again, incremental innovation around antiquity is simply not enough.  So, we need a radically common-sense approach that in a collegial fashion spells out how we can quickly and effectively have products that at the very least  begin to achieve the progressive targets for target reduction between 2020 and the decade to follow.  To methodically change the current landscape we need to involve everyone at the earliest possible time to work with the owner on their proforma beyond simply achieving a desired cap rate.  This is especially important now regional financial institutions are tightening up under the growing scrutiny of hefty globally based underwriting review often through using 3rd party quantity surveyors.  We are not that far away where the fixed cost of a project must be real and not a floating target. Getting to that true fixed cost and to remove waste will require everyone to pursue different compensation, risk and reward structures. In summary, these and other challenges (such as labour force reduction) beget a different, digital project delivery model based on a radical common sense approach to all aspects of Making Buildings and getting us on the path to achieving and exceeding the 2030 and on to the 2050 targets.

One facet of a radical common-sense approach would be that designers need to think more like producers and producers need to think more like designers.  This means in part, being actively involved beyond design intent which makes so much sense least of all to accept, mitigate and manage risk for an owner.  This facet of an increasingly active and less passive role is by working directly within the virtual/actual states of design, procurement, fabrication, assembly and operation of buildings.  Why does this make common-sense? One would be that as designers we know the scope of our virtual models better than anyone else – we have lived with it from its spark of inception, we have collectively addressed its carbon footprint, we know where to find every door, window, wall and element so why not actively be there through its transition from incubation, fabrication and on into assembly?  Why not on into operation? Then, what if we tie that collegially in a relational manner to producers and plug it directly into the supply chain via the internet using the Internet of Things to inform choices and influence outcomes?  We would have a potent solution that can create different relationships and risk/reward structures with fiscal certainly (which owners and their investor/finance groups want) faster than the current transactional arrangements offer.  Another reason already stated, is we know our models better than anyone and as designers working with producers, we can enter into risk acceptance and create opportunity for owners versus being risk averse for our clients in the current transactional minefield of contract/agreement structures. As designers’ we can transition through the requisite levels of development faster and with greater consistency.

Just look at where we are now – on a day-to-day basis we are being asked with increasing voracity to provide via “shop drawings” dimensions, confirm details, review quantities and solve construction ways & means through submissions that have been simply “expedited” (stamped and sent) by contractors that often bear no semblance to the actual project. To be fair to the contracting industry I believe the design community over the last 50 years has unfairly (because lawyers told the to) transferred risk and created a prejudicial load that has become a burden for contractors – so why not just take it on with the tools we now have and discharge the contractors of the burden they now carry? I would posit that this is one of the ways we can break the 3D > 2D > 3D > 2D > 3D insanity we now see under the BIM = CAD 2.0 approach and with crystal clarity get rid of all the unnecessary intermediaries and go from 3D (Intent) > 3D (Virtual) > 3D (Actual) to Making Buildings.

To do it right though requires that designers need to rapidly motor through design intent and progressively (with the end in mind) create coordinated, consistent, complete and accurate virtual designs that can actually get built.  This will allow us to rid ourselves of the significant churn of misplaced “clash detection” and its pervasive “false negative” misleading Bogey Man so threaten others with. We can convert the wasted energy into positive value propositions by using Making Buildings to render clash detection obsolete.   This is all part of employing techniques within Making Buildings that realizes for owners true “speed to market” where we can reduce initial capital requirement, accelerate the project ramp up and deliver to owners maximized life-cycle cash flows with as suggested by many using significantly more non-volumetric and volumetric off-site fabrication.

There is no doubt our world (internal to our industry and external to humanity) is irreversibly changing, some of that change is good, some bad.  I fret that the 200-year-old design and construction model will remain persistent and pervasive for too long and that change will, as history has shown will be resisted.  History has also shown us however that persistent, pervasive resistance to change never lasts longer than it needs to and that change is never linear, so I will feel pacified more than I will fret.  Sadly, though some are going to resist at their cost and are going to miss the train to Building (together in) the Future unless we adopt change in the short remaining time we have to make the transitions for the better.


Till next time, and Part 3.